Sunday, April 26, 2009

50 Ways

Just like the 50 ways to leave your lover, there are also 50 ways to save the planet.

#8 supports Michael Pollan's "Meatless Monday" concept, while #17 could lead to some interesting prospects.
Or, you could choose something as simple as #26 or as intensive as #19. Whichever you choose know that you will be making a difference.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Earth Day, founded in 1970, is celebrated in the United States on April 22. Today. As a result of the celebration I have been inundated with retail discounts and offerings from almost every direction, from companies that are not even "green" per se. In this economy businesses are getting creative in their advertising methods to drum up sales.

In celebration of Earth Day I instead encourage you to ignore these offers. Ignore the greenwashing that takes place from retailers trying to sell us more "stuff" that we don't need. Ignore the commercialism that has taken over America. Instead, go on a shopping diet. Buy only what you need. Think about your purchases before giving into to discounted temptations. The Earth will thank you in the end. Every purchase that you makes has to end up somewhere? Eventually, it's likely to end up in a landfill.

An average family of four throws away approximately 600 lbs. of trash every month. Multiply that by 306,000,000 people and see what you come up with. It creates a whole lot of freakin' trash, much of which could actually be recycled instead of getting buried in a landfill.

So, instead of heading out to hit up the green day sales choose to stay home and chill. Even better, chill with a nice, green mojito in your recycled glass tumblers while making a toast to Mother Earth.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Home is Where the Heart Is

Home is where the respiratory system, the kidneys, the livers, and of course, the heart is. It is also where the off-gassing is. Off-gassing being the emission of noxious gases that are frequently emitted inside homes from everyday items. Products such as flooring, paints, furniture, bedding. Items we purchase without a second thought and then sit, sleep, and eat on. Americans spend 90% of their time indoors so it is important that the air we are breathing is clean and healthy. Off-gassing, however, does not constitute clean and healthy, and in fact, can have detrimental affects on the aforementioned organs.

Then there are the elements that make up the production of the home. Those too contribute to off-gassing which then contribute the demise of an environmentally sound structure. Fortunately there are some sustainably designed options available today that are as stylish as they are green. Even if you can't jump into a full blown remodel or brand spankin' new pre-fab you can still look to these designs for inspiration. One action in the right direction can still make a difference.

Michelle Kaufmann Designs: Michelle Kaufmann is a architectural design firm that specializes in sustainable and innovative designs. Having won several awards for her stylist and environmentally-friendly architectural gems her designs are just plain cool.

Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects: This group of talented folks have created Rolling Huts. Yes, rolling huts that you can wheel around and stick the in-laws in. The designers refer to the huts as a step above camping, and remain low-tech and low-impact with their design. I'd say they are a few steps above camping and can think of many times when I'd have loved to escape to my own Rolling Hut.

Taliesin Mod.Fab: This ultra modern structure was created by graduate and undergraduate students at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Arizona. The Tasliesin exemplifies clean lines, elegance and sustainable living.

Kaplan Thompson Architects BrightBuilt Barn: This project is a collaboration between Kaplan Thompson Architects, Bensonwood Homes, and several Maine engineers and professionals. The structure features renewable materials, water conservation, energy efficiency, sustainable landscape, and renewable power. According to the team the goals from the start have been: livability, sustainability, replicability / affordability, disentaglement / flexibility, and education.

We are in the infancy stage of green building and while these examples stand out for their innovative designs there will soon be a day when sustainable living is the new normal. Hopefully that normality will be accepted sooner rather than later.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

East vs. West

East vs. West

I recently returned from New York City and after getting over my intense appreciation for thecity found myself doing an eco-comparison of East vs. West. The first observation, which is really quite obvious, is that East Coast folk are big on mass transit. How could they not?! No parking and tons of traffic have made mass transit a way of life. It simply becomes part of the equation in getting from point A to point B. After doing my share of BART riding (Bay Area Rapid Transit - for those outer bay area folk) I actually found the NY subways to be quite... clean! I have heard stories of rats mocking the riders but was fortunate enough to have missed such performances. The cabs, on the otherhand, are a whole other story. They are a hit or miss experience. One might have the pungent smell of gasoline being driven by a foreigner with limited language skills while another could potentially be a hybrid driving, recently demoralized, Madoff feeder fund broker.

Two years ago Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a green transportation effort by requiring the city to turn its fleet of yellow, gas consuming taxis into hybrid, earth loving fares. That has since been overturned by a judge who deemed the proposal as violating federal law. Whatever! Federal Law, schmederal law. Good for you Bloomberg for trying to turn the page. Councilman David Yassky says that "with our child asthma rate more than twice the national average, it is our kids who will suffer from dirtier air, and New Yorkers should be upset with that outcome." Yassky is committed to seeing the hybrid taxi legislation through and intends to work with the Mayor and the federal representatives to put New York on a greener path.

So, what is San Francisco doing, I wondered? It turns out that Mayor Gavin Newsom is working toward greening the city, but it just doesn't seem to have the same flair and extravagance as New York's plan. Fair enough. New York is a more extravagant city. And besides, the west coast is probably a tad bit greener anyway so New York has to catch up with us, right? Anyhoo, last year Newsom unveiled several, or at least three, converted electric city vehicles that will be used by city departments in hopes of bringing attention to the technology while raising awareness. "I think this is where change occurs, on a local level," Newsom said. Perfect. Great. I do actually agree with Mr. Perfect Hair, but the price tag on those cars is approximately $60k. Very few San Franciscans recently affected by our currently crappy economy will want to throw $60,000 on a consumer reports gamble of a car. It seems that it might be a better solution to follow Mr. Bloomberg's intentions by requiring greener cabs and buses. Just a thought. Maybe when I'm Mayor of SF I can propose Prius cabs, Biodiesal buses, and peace loving orgies in the streets. Kidding! I'm far too conservative for the latter, but still. It's a thought.

I guess the end result of this rant is that there are pros and cons that exist on each coast. We can certainly learn from each other and take the best that we each have to offer. As far as I'm concerned, East Coast. West Coast. You can't go wrong. But there's a long way to go for us both to be right. (but not in the political sense!)